Paradise and Death

“Paradise and Death: The Temptations of Odysseus” written by Eric T.  Macknight, illustrates the temptations Odysseus faced throughout his journey home. Homer’s Odysseus comes across multiple opportunities to live in comfort rather than in pain. However, these opportunities were never there to help save Odysseus from his pain, rather to slowly bring his life to an end.

These opportunities that are written within The Odyssey as chances for Odysseus to live in paradise are actually chances for him to live in comfort, meaning to live in death. The opportunities are: “the land of the Lotus-eaters; Kirke’s island; the Sirenes; Kalypso’s island’ the three days swimming at sea after his raft is destroyed by Poseidon and Phaiakia” (p. 2).  Why is Odysseus’s life an adventure and how does he make it out of these opportunities for death that are disguised as paradises? It is because Odysseus knows that life is nothing without pain.

“Paradise and Death: The Temptations of Odysseus” is a well-written piece that through examples from The Odyssey and other readings such as: “The greek Myths (Baltimore, 1955)” (p. 10). It helps us to better understand the truth about The Odyssey and how Odysseus is portrayed. The truth is that Odysseus’s life is not quite different from our own.

“In our ‘magical islands,’ we have manicured lawns, gleaming automobiles, tastefully landscaped homes. Inside are wall-to-wall carpeting, double-wide refrigerators, cable TV, and centralized climate-control systems. Like Phaiákia, these paradises promise comfort and pleasure—a refuge from the harsh realities. Suburban life offers all the temptations that beckoned Odysseus. Like the Lotos Eaters, we consume drugs to escape from reality. In our glorification of youth, our denial of death, and our frequent refusal to honestly confront the future, we hearken to the Seirênês song. Like the Phaiákians, we lose ourselves in trivial pleasures and amusements. And our alarming rate of suicide, especially among the young, shows how strong is the temptation to “sink beneath the waves, let go, and die.” (pp. 16-17)

After reading this we can better understand how the temptations Odysseus’s faces are very similar in fact to certain temptation within our own lives. To escape the reality we tend to choose the easy path and live in comfort. But this path will never make us happy. Odysseus chooses pain over comfort because he knows that if he does not feel the pain he would not be living.

“Odysseus rejects a life of indolent leisure as he rejects death itself. Why? He knows that to live consciously is to recognize our limitations-our flaws, our feialties, our ignorance, our mortality-and struggle against them. To deny these limitations-to seek an illusory escape from them-is, in effect, to die.” (p. 17)

Our limitations are needed for us to live. Denying them we would find ourselves living a life that will end in death rather than in happiness. Accepting your limitations and removing comfort from your life is what you call living consciously. But when you choose to deny your limitations and live in comfort is what you call living unconsciously, which is not living at all.

“For Odysseus, for everyone, unconsciousness is death, and the only life worth living is that peculiarly human life, that life which ‘is pain’; that life in which joy and happiness are not given, and are never permanent, but are dearly bought, always temporary—and thereby unspeakably precious.” (pp. 17-18)

People tend to underthink what life is. Happiness never lasts, it is only temporary but within the moments you can feel it throughout your life is when you are truly living. “Paradise and Death: The Temptations of Odysseus” exemplifies through well-asserted paragraphs, clear and thoughtful use of words through each paragraph, and supporting evidence from The Odyssey and other similar reading how life should be understood. I have learned that pain is needed to live consciously within life. That without pain, we would be living unconsciously, which is living life surrounded not by happiness but rather by death.

 

 

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